Why I Want to Publish

It took an obituary.

As I’ve been pondering my writing journey, several people have asked me questions about my desire to get my work published. The thought-provoking questions have included, “You’ve written something you are proud of, is that not enough?” “But you enjoy the act of writing itself, right?” “I thought you gave up false ideas about ‘success’?” “But you aren’t dependent on what other people think, are you?” These questions have really made me ponder the ultimate question: why do I want to get my work out there for others to read?

I read an article recently that talked about the function of novels. Novels, it said, aren’t books; they’re opportunities for conversations. I, a woman who loves community, was quite taken with this idea. As writers, we write for different reasons; for me, it’s because writing makes time stand still. According to this article, we publish to trigger the conversation.

So I was mulling over the questions I’d been asked and the point of this interesting article I’d read, when a writer friend shared the obituary he’d drafted for the death of his father. Ahhhhhh, I thought as I read this amazing obituary, now I know why I want to publish.

None of us understands this life. No one can figure out who we are or why we’re here. God knows why, after all this work, we die. We are all searching, groping, clawing in the dark after something that cannot ultimately be taken in hand. Writing is our attempt to focus a magnifying glass on one of the interminable questions that vex us as we journey along. Writers publish their work because the rest of us want to read whatever scrap of understanding the writer has managed to snatch from the air as it floats by.

Yes, the obit was beautifully written, but that’s not why I cried as I read it. I wept because reading the story of this man’s life, I knew—despite all the horrible things that happen in the world every day—we are a good people. The shared words gave me hope for humanity. That’s why I want to publish my work: for how it alters, even ever so slightly, other people’s view of the world. I want to publish for the collective conversation of life.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

deciding to publish your work, the writing life, why a writer publishes, why do you want to publish?, why publish?

Comments (3)

  • I heard Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt in concert a few months ago. They chatted like old friends between songs, going back and forth each playing one of their tunes. At the end of one (can’t remember which one) played by LL, Hiatt said, “That was really beautiful.” to which LL replied “Oh you, know, just workin’ it out.” I took that to mean “life” and trying to figure it out through the writing of music. Same thing, in a way, as writing a novel, don’t you think?

  • Ellen Morris Prewitt

    Yes, exactly. And how I love that image of the two of them, sharing the results between them and with everyone else.

  • […] Why I write—the physical act of writing; the creating; the editing; the sitting down at the computer and banging away—is a question easy for me to answer: I write because it makes time stand still. The passage of time strikes me as the saddest fact of the universe. While writing, I cheat the ever-ticking clock. The harder question for me goes to the issue of the time and energy I’m spending trying to get published, something I pondered about the collective conversation of life. […]

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